On the middle child syndrome

Professional photograph of a group from around...

Professional photograph of a group from around the turn of the 19th/20th century: siblings (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Many parents who have walked the path before me warned me about the middle-child syndrome, the moment I have my number three kid. They asked me to look out for signs and symptoms of the middle-child syndrome of my number two. Being totally clueless myself what is the middle-child syndrome as an only child, I did some research on middle-child syndrome, and here is what I found from Stacy DeBroff of momcentral.com:

“Adding second and third children greatly impacts the family structure, and a middle child is created. Yes, the “Middle Child Syndrome” is very real. Middle kids bemoan their fate as being ignored and often grow resentful of all the parental attention given to the oldest and the baby of the family, and feel short-shifted. Three kids triangulate sibling relationships, with one child at any given point feeling like the odd man out from the chumminess of the other two.”

Parents tend to be much more easy-going, less anxious, and less demanding with second and third children. Thus many middle children grow up with a more relaxed attitude towards life than their older siblings; though they have to compete for family attention against the milestones set by the oldest, and growing up in their shadow. Middle children have to try a little harder to “be heard” or get noticed. The middle child usually has to fight harder for the attention of their parents and therefore crave the family spotlight. They may feel that they do not get as much praise as the older children for simple firsts like tying a shoe or riding a bike. Those things just become expected. “

(See full article here: http://today.msnbc.msn.com/id/14335112/ns/today-parenting_and_family/t/what-are-effects-middle-child-syndrome/)

Frankly, I have always disliked the dynamics of three. So after I found myself pregnant with number three, I told my husband, “Maybe we should go for number four. Having two middle children is better than only one, at the least they can keep each other company.”

Indeed, now that I am expecting number four, I find Ben and Cat closer to each other than ever. They engage in all kinds of imaginary play that only both of them know about, and they speak in a secret language to each other that only they understand. All is well and good. But that means my Augustine becomes the biggest attention seeker and baby of the family before Dom arrives, because his siblings are not playing with him! In fact he still acts very much like the only child, ignoring his siblings if he can get away with it, and pretty much doing his own stuff. Ah, the dynamics of three at work again. Instead of the middle child getting lost in the middle, my eldest has chosen self-exile.

But does having a younger sister playmate help in the middle-child syndrome? I don’t think it made a real difference to Ben.  This is why:

One night during prayer time, Ben said in earnest, “I wish that I can stay in hospital forever.” This was right after he was discharged from a four day stay in hospital for intussusception. Concerned, I asked, “Why did you say that?” Ben said, “So that mummy would be with me all the time, and I can watch Cartoon Network the whole day.” He was unabashedly enjoying all the attention we showered upon him during his hospitalization stay! Instead of fearing the hospital for its association with sickness and discomfort, he associated hospital stays with undivided attention and unlimited pampering. This is heart wrenching. Time for some serious scheduling of my one-on-one time with my children.

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5 responses to “On the middle child syndrome

    • Yup, interestingly my eldest is the one getting left out while the second and third are having a ball with each other. But as number 4 grows up number 1 may still have a companion yet. 🙂 Perhaps it is not so much the birth order but the temperament? Though temperament may sometimes be affected by birth order too. Keep me posted on how your kids turn out! 🙂

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